Subject line: Minor bodies of the Solar System

Responsibility of the mission: NASA

Date of launch: February 7th, 1999

End of mission: March 24th, 2011



Stardust is the fourth mission of the NASA Discovery programme, and the first mission whose only focus is on exploring a comet: Wild 2. The mission departed in February 1999 from Cape Canaveral with a Delta II vector rocket and following a four-year journey – during which the probe performed a flyby of the 5535 Annefrank asteroid at a 3300 km distance – on January 2nd, 2004 STARDUST reached the Wild2 Comet.

The mission completed its first cycle of observation and collection of samples in 2006, but it was extended in 2011 with the purpose of studying the Comet Tempel 1, previously observed in the Deep Impact mission. The encounter with the celestial body happened of February 14th, 2011 and the mission ended on March 24th, 2011, when the probe ran out of fuel.


Scientific goals

The primary goal of the mission was to collect and analyse samples of carbon dust coming from the comet Wild 2, by using a special material with extremely low density known as aerogel, similar to a big tennis racket.

STARDUST brought back to Earth samples of interstellar dust and fragments of dust coming from outside our Solar System, which are useful to study the evolution of the Sun and the other planets of the Solar System.

‣ News


Italy, France and Germany signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the ‘SPACEFOUNDERS’ European program ‣

The Italian Space Agency (ASI), the French Space Agency (CNES) and the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich (UniBW) are committed to cooperating for ”SpaceFounders”, the European New Space accelerator launched in 2021 by CNES with UniBw MORE...

FRIDAY 12 MAY 2023

The fjords of Greenland observed by PRISMA ‣

The images shown on this page are elaborations of the visible and infrared bands of an acquisition over Greenland in May 2021 MORE...


The desertification of the Aral Sea ‣

This composition is obtained by processing a PRISMA image acquired in January 2021 on the Aral Sea area MORE...


JUICE is en route to unveil Jupiter’s secrets and Italy is onboard ‣

The European space science mission JUICE successfully launched into space.  State-of-the-art instruments developed and funded by the Italian Space Agency are featured aboard the probe. The Italian Agency has coordinated the participation in Juice of several entities, enterprises, and other national space agencies MORE...


Rivers in the tropical forest observed by PRISMA ‣

Iguazu Falls area observed by the Italian satellite MORE...